Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Remembering Victor Spinetti

Just as the rest of you Beatle fans, I was sad to hear the news of Victor Spinetti's passing.   I heard Victor speak for the first time at my very first Beatlefest in 1994.   I was 17 years old, a die hard second generation fan and was shocked that someone who was in three Beatles movies was speaking about his time with the Beatles.  Victor was great at storytelling and when he told the stories about the Beatles, you could picture what was happening in your mind.   He made the Beatles become real and not just images on a screen.   Victor returned to the Chicago Fest in 2007, where I posed with him for a photo and had him autograph his book for me.  

Me with Victor Spinetti at the Fest for Beatle Fans Chicago in 2007

Victor's autograph on his book for me.

A fan-taken photo of Victor and Jane Asher in New York in 1971

It is a sad realization that has the years tick by, more and more figures in the Beatles story are passing away.   Those of us who are young will have to endure this for many more key people as well as Paul and Ringo themselves.   I hate to be a downer and bring this up, but it is a very sad fact.   I just hope that we are able to pass our love for the Beatles onto the next generations who won't have the opportunity to hear people who knew the Beatles personally speak at conventions, or see Paul or Ringo in concert....

Anyway...onto more about Victor Spinetti.   One of my favorite tales that Victor tells is about the Victor Spinetti Fan Club that ran by a fan in the United States.   I found that this fan was a girl named Patti Gallo.   Patti was (and still is) a true Beatlemaniac.  She lived in Philadelphia in 1964 and on September 16 of that year she saw Victor perform in the play (in which he won the Tony award for the same role on Broadway in 1965) Oh what a lovely war.   Keep in mind that this was just months after Victor was in the Beatles film,  A Hard Day's Night.   It must have been mind-blowing to see the actor that was in the Beatles film just month after its release.   So anyway, Patti meets Victor at the stagedoor, where he tells her some wonderful Beatles stories.   And in October of 1964, the Official Victor Spinetti Fan Club of America was created.

I am not too sure what it took to be in such fan club or what you got for being a member, but Victor did send the fan club the Beatles autograph on a an in-flight menu during the making of Help and (and this is the biggie) the fuzzy sweater from the movie A Hard Day's Night!   When I heard Victor speak at Beatlefest in 2007, someone asked him whatever happened to that sweater and he stated that he wasn't sure as he gave it to the Victor Spinetti fan club in the 1960's.   I wonder where it is today. 

Read more about Patti at her website

And then here is the funny part of the story of the fan club.  Told by Victor himself

"The same thing happened to the Beatles, once. I was on a plane once with them. We landed in New York, just to refuel, that is all. We were not allowed off the plane. And suddenly an immigration officer got on the plane and said, 'Is there a Victor Spinetti here?' John said, 'They're deporting you, you bloody wop. Ellis Island awaits.'

 " 'Yes, I am he,' I said. 'Would you come to the door of the plane, please,' the man said, 'and wave, because your fan club is at the airport.' The Beatles cried, 'His fan club!?' It was like that joke about the Pope. I'm standing next to the Beatles at the door of the plane, waving with the lads, and these people were shouting, 'Victor! Victor!'
"John said, 'Hey, Vic, we're really impressed, think we could join?' So I wrote to the lady who ran the club, and the Beatles and Brian Epstein all got a card saying they were members of the Official Victor Spinetti Fan Club of America.

Of course he did more than just Beatles movies (although I am glad that he did because knowing hs name and the 3 movies he was in allowed me to win a Beatles trivia contest once.)  Many years ago I was listening to the London soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar and I was really enjoying Pilot's song.  It has always been one of my favorites from that musical, but I just really thought it sounded good.  So I looked at the liner notes and sure enough, Victor Spinetti was playing Pilot!   He also was the voice of Mr. Thomus for the cartoon version of the Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe (which is loved as a kid!).  

So here is to you Victor Spinetti....with a ring like that I might -- dare I say it --- rule the world!

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh, I had no idea....Mr. Spinetti was the best! I was just watching interviews with him on You Tube, like, last week!

    I had no idea he played Pilate! I'm going to hunt that down! I, too, have always loved the Pilate songs, can't believe Spinetti played the (not-so-great!) man!

    One thing that I've always found so heartening is that he never seemed to tire of "testifying" about his time with the Fabs. Look at that great picture with you!! That was 2007! And he was the same way in 1987!

    The interplay between him and Roy Kinnear in "Help!" is one of the best things about that movie. I so wish I could have seen him act in the "In His Own Write" play, that must have been something.

    Yeah, here's to you Victor Spinetti, indeed.

    Oh my gosh, the look on his face when Paul's grandfather pops up during the Beatles' performance in AHDN....priceless!!!